Introduction to the Autonomic System

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Introduction to the Autonomic System:

How is the Autonomic Nervous System organized?

• The Autonomic Nervous System is divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions.

• Basic plan: Nerve impulses propagate from autonomic sensory receptors (and in some cases: somatic sensory neurons and special sensory neurons - fight-n-flight mechanism) in visceral organs and blood vessels to integrating centers in CNS. Then, impulses from the autonomic motor neurons propagate back to the effector tissues regulating smooth (eg., intestinal walls, blood vessel walls), cardiac, and many glands.

How is the Autonomic Nervous System controlled?

• Autonomic Nervous System operates without conscious control.

• Autonomic Nervous System is controlled by centers in the hypothalamus, limbic system, brain stem, spinal cord, and to some extent, by the cerebral cortex.

What are some receptors of the Autonomic Nervous System?

• Examples of autonomic sensory receptors: chemoreceptors, mechanoreceptors, etc.

• Impulses from these receptors are not consciously sensed, except in severe cases like angina pectoris.

• Autonomic motor neurons work by increasing or decreasing activities of effector tissues.

• Tissues powered by autonomic motor neurons function to some extent even if their nerve supply is damaged.

Where are the Autonomic Nervous System neurons located?

• The structure of Autonomic Nervous System is basically two types of neurons connected in series. The nucleus of the first neuron is located in the spinal cord or brain; and its axons, after traveling as part of cranial or spinal nerve, are located in the autonomic ganglion. The nucleus of the second neuron is located in the autonomic ganglion, and its axons are located in effector tissue.

• The two types of giant neurons communicate only through Ach, but the second neuron communicates with effector tissue using Ach or norepinephrine (NE).

• The two types of neurons send their impulses through sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions.

• Impulses from both the divisions oppose each other.

• The hypothalamus is connected to both the systems.

Further Topics on Autonomic Nervous System:

1. Introduction to the Autonomic Nervous System
2. Control of the Autonomic Nervous System
3. Divisions the Autonomic Nervous System
4. Notes on Sympathetic Nervous System
5. Notes on Paraympathetic Nervous System
6. Neurons of the Autonomic Nervous System
7. Neurotransmitters and Receptors of the Autonomic Nervous System
8. FAQ on Autonomic System

Additional Reading:

Basic Neurology

1. Peripheral Nervous System
2. Central Nervous System
3. The Ventricular System
4. The Spinal Cord
5. The Brain Stem
6. The Cerebellum
7. Visual Pathways
8. Diencephalon
9. Basal Ganglia
10. Cerebral Cortex
11. Sleep Disorders
12. Autonomic Nervous System
13. Cranial Nerves and Parasympathetic Ganglia
14. Cells of the Nervous System
15. Cerebrospinal fluid
16. Additional short notes on Cerebrum
17. Functions and Diseases of Cerebrum
18. Subcortical Grey Matter
19. Notes on The Spinal Cord
20. Regulation of Heart Rate by Autonomic Nervous System
21. Action Potentials, Axon Conduction, and Neuromuscular Junction
22. Types of Seizures
23. What is a Cough Reflex?
24. Notes on Congenital Prosopagnosia
25. Findings in Parkinson's Disease
26. Types of Heat Strokes
27. Types of Strokes
28. What is Benign Intracranial Hypertension?
29. What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
30. Cranial Nerve Locations in Brain Stem
31. What is a Cluster Headache?
32. What is a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?
33. What is a Tension Headache?

Neurology Videos

1. Video of Neurology Examination in a Clinical Setting

Medical Images

Useful Medical Images & Diagrams (link opens in a new window)

Related Topics

1. Nervous System Disorders
2. Histology of Nervous Tissue
3. Cranial Nerve Reflexes
4. Motor System Examination

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